Last updated: 18 July, 2012

US Vice President Biden’s security adviser warns of Syria spillover effect

US Vice President Joe Biden’s national security adviser discussed the Syrian crisis and the threat of unrest spilling into nearby countries with Iraqi leaders on Wednesday, he told journalists.

Antony Blinken met Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, and was set to hold talks with other top politicians on a trip to Baghdad and later in the Kurdish regional capital Arbil.

“I think there’s largely a shared assessment which is that the longer the status quo prevails, the more likely it is that the bad things that none of us want to see happen actually do happen,” he told reporters at the US embassy of his meetings with Iraqi leaders.

“That is, for example, the danger that what’s happening within Syria becomes a full-blown sectarian conflict that spills over into neighbouring countries, including Iraq, which is in no one’s interests. The longer this goes on, the more likely that becomes.”

“And so, what I talked about was the urgent need to advance a political transition in Syria, that that is the best path forward.”

Blinken declined to comment on a suicide bombing earlier on Wednesday that struck at the heart of Syria’s security apparatus, killing the country’s defence minister and President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law.

The attack, which for the first time in a 16-month anti-regime uprising targeted members of Assad’s inner core, came ahead of a UN Security Council debate on Syrian sanctions, when a showdown between Western powers and Russia and China is expected.

Earlier on Wednesday, Maliki voiced the need for further cooperation between Washington and Baghdad in the fields of energy and security, in a statement issued by his office following his talks with Blinken.